Simon Bridges has backtracked on why a National Party petition against the UN migration compact was removed from the party's website in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack.
The National Party leader told media on Tuesday he had just been informed the petition was removed by an "emotional" junior staffer on Friday in the wake of the Christchurch shooting.
But that contradicted an earlier statement a National spokesperson gave to The Spinoff, saying the petition had been deleted from the website "some weeks ago" in a routine maintenance check of the website.
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Bridges said it had been his understanding that the petition had been archived as part of a routine check, which he said happened frequently. But on Tuesday he said he was made aware that was not the case.
"What in fact happened, I learnt this morning, was that a junior staffer was incredibly emotional on Friday night and took it upon themselves to delete it," he told media.
When asked if it was the right decision to remove it, he said: "I think the reality is we're not going to be critical of it because, as I say it's a junior staff member, [who was] very emotional."
And when confronted with the idea that the National Party hadn't been honest about why the petition was removed, Bridges said: "I don't consider that a lie at all - I think if you say that, that's very wrong."
The petition referred to the United Nations Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which the Government said in December it would support after receiving legal advice that it wouldn't affect national sovereignty.
Several countries, like Australia and the United States, had earlier pulled out citing concerns about the effect the agreement may have on national sovereignty and nations' ability to set their own migration and foreign policy.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it failed to "adequately distinguish between people who enter Australia illegally and those who come to Australia the right way, particularly with respect to the provision of welfare and other benefits".
The National Party had campaigned against New Zealand signing it, with Bridges saying last year his party "cannot accept this" as it could restrict New Zealand's ability to set its own migration and foreign policy being restricted.
The now-deleted National Party petition had said the pact "restricts the ability of future governments to set immigration and foreign policy, and to decide on which migrants are welcome and which aren't".
"I think that that was a position around New Zealand making its own laws," Bridges said.
"If you look at our immigration position I think we have the strongest pro-migration position across the Parliament."